By Connor Lynch
GUELPH — A meta-analysis, where scientists compare results from many different studies, done by a team of researchers, including an associate professor at the University of Guelph, has found some promising data to support farmers using cover crops.
The three researchers, including Associate Prof. Laura Van Eerd of the U of G, alongside Dr. Anais Charles and Dr. Anne Vanasse of Université Laval in Quebec, looked at over 50 different studies on corn, soybeans, and cereals yields.
Their analysis showed an average increase of 13 % in yields for cash crops following cover crops. Corn yields were boosted by an average of 16 %, wheat yields by 22 %, but soybeans didn’t get any boost at all.
The research even suggested what types of cover crops were the most promising. Corn planted after a legume cover crop, such as crimson clover or hairy vetch, saw an average yield boost of 21 per cent, and cereal yields were up by an average of 27 per cent. Van Eerd said that although legumes were clearly a big booster for corn and wheat, there weren’t enough data points to break down which legumes performed the best.
Questions remain since there weren’t enough data to break out what types of cropping systems worked best with different cover crops and cash crops. The data, nevertheless, are a promising boost to cover crops, the researchers concluded.